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Dead Souls, Episode 9




The last episode of a 9-part dramatization of Nikolai Gogol's masterpiece. Produced by Globe Radio Repertory for NPR Playhouse in the late 1980s, the series received wide acclaim.
Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, it was sold in audio cassette form, but is now out of print.


Reviews

Reviewer: gl1200phil - - February 8, 2011
Subject: Here's what Wiki has to say
(The description posted offers no clue as to the plot and contents of Gogol's "masterpiece". Since I have no knowledge of said item, I have taken the liberty of extracting what follows, from Wikipedia. I have arbitrarly assigned a rating of 5 {Hey, It's a masterpiece!}. When I look for descriptions, I know that having a rating means there hopefully should be some idea about the contents of the work. gl1200phil)

Dead Souls is a novel by Nikolai Gogol, first published in 1842, and widely regarded as an exemplar of 19th-century Russian literature. Gogol himself saw it as an "epic poem in prose", and within the book as a "novel in verse". Despite supposedly completing the trilogy's second part, Gogol destroyed it shortly before his death. Although the novel ends in mid-sentence (like Sterne's Sentimental Journey), it is usually regarded as complete in the extant form.
In the Russian Empire before the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, landowners were entitled to own serfs to farm their land. Serfs were for most purposes considered the property of the landowner, and could be bought, sold, or mortgaged, as any other chattel. To count serfs (and people in general), the measure word "soul" was used: e.g., "six souls of serfs". The plot of the novel relies on "dead souls" (i.e., "dead serfs") which are still accounted for in property registers. On another level, the title refers to the "dead souls" of Gogol's characters, all of which visualise different aspects of poshlost (an untranslatable Russian word which is perhaps best rendered as "self-satisfied inferiority", moral and spiritual, with overtones of middle-class pretentiousness, fake significance, and philistinism).

The first part of the novel was intended to represent the Inferno of the modern-day Divine Comedy. Gogol revealed to his readers an encompassing picture of the ailing social system in Russia after the war of 1812. As in many of Gogol's short stories, the social criticism of Dead Souls is communicated primarily through absurd and hilarious satire. Unlike the short stories, however, Dead Souls was meant to offer solutions rather than simply point out problems. This grander scheme was largely unrealized at Gogol's death; the work was never completed, and it is primarily the earlier, darker part of the novel that is remembered.

In their studies of Gogol, Andrey Bely, D. S. Mirsky, Vladimir Nabokov, and other modernist critics rejected the commonly held view of Dead Souls as a reformist or satirical work. For instance, Nabokov regarded the plot of Dead Souls as unimportant and Gogol as a great writer whose works skirted the irrational and whose prose style combined superb descriptive power with a disregard for novelistic clich├ęs. True, Chichikov displays a most extraordinary moral rot, but the whole idea of buying and selling dead souls is, to Nabokov, ridiculous on its face; therefore, the provincial setting of the novel is a most unsuitable backdrop for any of the progressive, reformist or Christian readings of the work.


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